Human Security: An Introduction

Hello readers,

My name is Adela Jones, and this is my first professional blog dedicated to non-traditional, or “human,” security. For those of you who may not be familiar with the concept, non-traditional security deviates from traditional security by basically focusing on meeting the essential needs of the individual to promote political stability. The concept first came into prominence in 1994, when the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) pioneered the concept of “freedom from want and fear” as the basic tenants of addressing global political insecurity.

Non-traditional security, since then, has been adopted at the policy level by mostly progressive, European countries–Norway, Denmark and Sweden, to name a few–as well as Australia and Canada. Even nations such as Singapore and China have declared human security issues as a major threat to their national security.  Despite however idealistic the concept may sound, the United States is actually one of the main proponents of the concept. The U.S. Departments of State, Defense and the Intelligence Community (CIA, DIA and the National Intelligence Council, or NIC) have published numerous reports advocating for the adoption and implementation of human security-oriented programs, especially relating to climate change.

Furthermore, major Washington, D.C. think-tanks, including the Wilson and Stimson Centers, the Atlantic Council, Center for American Progress and Center for Security and Climate Change, have published numerous publications and even have departments dedicated to such topics. The Wilson Center has a wonderful blog, the New Security Beat, which is dedicated to non-traditional security issues. International institutions, including many UN organs (World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Development Programme), and world class universities, such as the London School of Economics, the University of Oxford, Tufts University, the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced and International Studies, are emerging research centers on a variety of human security-related topics. It may surprise you that the United States military has been one of the earliest proponents of the human security nexus.

There are seven main pillars of human security:

  • Economic Security (Ensuring enough money in which to survive);
  • Food & Water Security (Ensuring enough food in which to survive);
  • Health Security (Access to basic medical needs);
  • Environmental Security (Addressing threats on human life from issues emerging from the environment);
  • Personal Security (Human safety);
  • Community Security (Preventing ethnic conflict); and
  • Political Security (Access to basic human rights as designated by the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights).

So why isn’t human security unanimously adopted? Well, we still live in an area with remnants of the Cold War era still very much alive–just look at Russia. “Traditional” (i.e. military-focused) security is still a major driving force of global conflict, and is the most appropriate way of dealing with such conflicts as the Islamic State and other conflicts. Policy is, for the most part, reactionary, and thus military capabilities are generally more of an attractive action when a conflict escalates.

Human security, in my humble opinion, is the best preventative measure of conflict outbreak. Why do I say this? Well, I’ll give you an example. My research focuses primarily on political instability and environmental issues pertaining to water shortages–both man-made and driven by extreme natural events (especially in relation to climate change). Why is water important? It’s the essential ingredient for life. It can also destroy life–just think of any terrible water-related natural disaster. And it’s led to numerous conflicts over water rights right here in the United States, and as far as Israel, Jordan, China, Vietnam, Russia, India, Mexico, South Africa, Pakistan, Bolivia, and just about every water scarce region in the world. In the next 15 years, half of the world will be water stressed, according to the OCED. And those 3.5 billion individuals will be looking for a source of food and water.

I hope this has been an insightful introduction into the human security dynamic. Please keep reading, and thanks for your support!